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Detroit Tigers Links: Al-Jazeera PED report unravels before it even hits the airwaves

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Al-Jazeera's PED investigation has made waves, even as its main source is already recanting. James McCann weighs in on the Tigers trip to the Dominican Republic and reflects on his first major-league season. Building the super-pitcher, and the rise of the opt-out in contract negotiation.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Reports surfaced this weekend of an Al-Jazeera report chronicling accusations of performance-enhancing drug use by Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard. The biggest name in the report, was not a baseball player for once, belonging instead to Denver Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning. All three athletes quickly issued denials, Manning doing so even before the report aired on Sunday.

The report itself quickly came under direct fire from its purported source, Charles Sly. Sly, a former pharmacy intern, quickly recanted his accusations, though he didn't deny that he made them to Al-Jazeera's undercover reporter, British hurdler, Liam Collins. Instead, according to ESPN, he claims to have made the whole thing up. The whole story has quickly gotten quite convoluted, with timetables of Sly's claims, as well as his position at the institution reported to have supplied Manning with HGH, not matching those given in the story.

While baseball certainly has no need of another PED scandal, it's interesting to see such a huge football star forced to issue his denials. In a sport that would seem to demand athletes doing everything possible to improve or just to stay on the field, Manning is almost certainly the biggest name ever accused. At the moment however, there appears to be far too many questions about the report itself to give it any credence without real evidence.

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The quest for the super-pitcher

The boom in private coaching for sports has no doubt produced its fair share of hacks, charlatans and shysters, but there are also success stories. Our very own J.D. Martinez gave credit to an unnamed coach two years ago in helping him to rebuild his swing during the offseason. While many of these coaches may have playing experience, there are others who've built methodologies of their own to bring players to peak athletic performance.

Kyle Boddy played no college or professional baseball. He's not a physical therapist, an exercise physiologist, or any other sort of credentialed expert in baseball or exercise science. Yet in recent years, Boddy has built a niche for his company, Driveline Baseball, in training pitchers to throw harder with fewer injuries. The Tigers own Matt Boyd improved his velocity last offseason, crediting Boddy's conditioning, including resistance band work and intense weighted ball drills, with adding that zip to his fastball.

Brendan Gawlowski at Baseball Prospectus reports from Boddy's camp, as a host of pitchers, including the Indians' Trevor Bauer, train for the 2016 campaign. Perhaps this is the way forward in pitcher training, or as some warn, it could be a disaster in the making.

The players' new best friend in negotiation, the opt-out clause

Typically when I think of options, I tend to think of them from the team perspective. And yet opt-outs for players is the hot thing this offseason. It's quickly become a tool to allow top players to sign an excellent contract while retaining the option to bail after a great season to seek more money, or to skip out on a bad team situation. David Price, Johnny Cueto and Jason Heyward all had them built into their contracts so far this offseason.

Another interesting element to the player option is in how it alters the way we look at future seasons. With only a handful of free agent pitchers, and no particular glut of positional talent available in free agency next offseason, might a player who doesn't feel he's being fully valued now eye a potential opt-out next year as a big bonus in contract negotiations? That kind of freedom seems a pretty valuable commodity.

A player can sign a long-term deal for less money than they might like, but if you front-load the deal, and provide an opt-out after a year or two, it may become easier for team's to simply buy the prime years they want, and hope the player does well enough to choose the opt-out escape hatch when the time comes.

With so many quality free agents still unsigned, it should be interesting to see if teams start offering these options to tilt a deal their way.

Tigers Winter Travels

Okay, today its going to finally look pretty wintry in the Detroit area. Batten down the hatches Michiganders!

While Miguel Cabrera was sunning himself and dancing for Brayan Pena, on MLB's goodwill mission to Cuba, Drew VerHagen accompanied several other young players to Honduras to deliver baseball equipment to a few impoverished towns, a trip that made a strong impression on the Tigers' reliever.

Anthony Gose and James McCann also made a goodwill trip to the Tigers' development facility in the Dominican Republic. McCann checked in with MLB Radio to discuss the trip, his first full season in the majors, and his relationship with manager Brad Ausmus.

  • The Washington Nationals inked second baseman, and postseason juggernaut, Daniel Murphy, to a three-year deal worth $37.5 million dollars. He won't help their infield defense, but another solid left-handed bat is always good. They still appear somewhat shot through with holes, when you consider the shadow they cast before the 2015 season, anyway.
  • Andrew Friedman has a bit of unrest brewing in the Dodgers fanbase after failing to re-sign or replace Zack Greinke. With deals to Hisashi Iwakuma and the trade for Aroldis Chapman unraveling for...reasons, there are some Dodgers fans feeling like Friedman still thinks he's overseeing the frugal Rays of Tampa Bay. Yet the Dodgers still look like contenders, and they've held onto their farm system. You can bet there's a method to the lack of madness.
  • No one appears excited about the Cardinals' addition of Mike Leake to their starting rotation. Of course, that's the whole point of Mike Leake!
  • MLB.com has their 15 most watched videos of 2015 all in one handy, easy to use post. Enjoy! We're only about eight weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting for duty. We must endure and overcome in the meantime!